by Mick Hammond
Over the history of MMA there have been few innovators who have withstood the test of time like Mark “The Hammer Coleman has. Coleman, the creator of ground ‘n pound, has seen and done it all during his nine year career. Along with being the first ever UFC Heavyweight Champion, Coleman was also Pride’s first Grand Prix Champion in 2000, becoming the only fighter to hold a title in both organizations.
And while many of his contemporaries have faded into memory, Coleman continues to compete and now, with a renewed vigor, returns to the ring after nearly an eight month absence to fight on Bushido Europe’s already stacked card this coming weekend in Holland.
After much speculation to who he would fight on the show, Coleman himself told MMA Weekly who he would be facing as he finalized preparation for his trip overseas. “I’m going to be fighting Milco Voorn on Sunday. I don’t know much about him other than he’s a tough scrapper, a tough fighter.”
As for his feelings on how he feels the fight will go, Coleman’s confidently stated, “I hope to destroy this guy. Anything less wouldn’t be great, I want to dominate him and build on it. I want to build on the conditioning base I’ve got right now, come back home (to Ohio) and not take a break.”
Coleman’s confidence stems from the fact that for the first time in a long time, he’s had the opportunity to set down a solid foundation of dedicated training.
“Training has been going real well, I feel I’ve improved in all areas,” said Mark. “You’ve got to be a machine nowadays and it takes months of training to get to that level. I want to go in there, dominate, not have any injuries, and get back home and start training right away for whatever is next.”
What Mark hopes is next is a return to Pride, the organization he’s been a staple of for the last six years. “I’ve got a fight left on my Pride contract. This is just a fight they offered to me extra on my contract. I’m not sure what kind of relationship Pride has with them, obviously they are working terms, so I’m going there to represent Pride.”
Coleman continued, “I’m not looking ahead or past this guy at all, this is going to be a huge weekend, but whatever happens I’m still looking to fight on New Year’s Eve for Pride. I want to win and dominate and look impressive because the New Year’s Eve show is the biggest show of the year and that’s where I want to be.”
Along with training to fight, Coleman’s professional time is spent in Japan with Pride’s pro wrestling organization Hustle. “The pro wrestling is going well. I’m doing 2-3 PPVs every 40 days and the company’s doing well and the fans are into what I’m doing. We have Hustlemania coming up, it’s kind of taking off of (the WWE’s) Wrestlemania coming up on October 28th and then there’s a big show on November 4th.”
If Coleman sounds enthusiastic and genuinely happy with the direction his career is heading, it is because he is. After years of difficulties with getting dedicated training time hampering him, Coleman has finally gotten the chance to put in the quality time he’s wanted into his preparations.
When asked what’s been different lately with his training, Coleman replied, “Verity. I’ve been training in Vegas, Japan, and Ohio over the last couple of months and I’ve gotten move around a little, which I like, and work a little bit on everything.”
Coleman explained, “I like Vegas, the weather and the altitude are great. A lot of people say it could be a distraction, but I’m the total opposite. When I’m there I know what I’m there to do and there are no distractions, when I’m there it’s just time train and fight. I worked with (Phil) Baroni, One Kick Nick, my stablemate Kevin Randleman and at Marc Laimon’s Gym. One Kick Nick’s been great for my punching skills and I continue to work on my ground game. So I’ll hope to have it down like wrestling where I don’t have to think about what to do next, when that happens I’ll be fine.”
“I went over to Japan for 30 days and trained at a couple gyms. I went to (Pride Head Referee) Yuji Shimada’s and Tsuyoshi Kosaka’s gym, he’s got a lot of top rate pros there. Training with TK was nice, (Kazuhiro) Nakamura was there and so was Lyoto (Ryoto Machida) from Brazil, the guy that beat BJ Penn and Rich Franklin. I had some really good workouts with him. He helped with me with submissions and I worked with him on his wrestling so it was a good exchange. I think he needs some good coaching and if things work out, we discussed training together again in the future,” continued Mark.
With the willingness to continue to work with different people and diversify his game, Coleman will be able to keep up with the new generation of fighters who come into the sport already as hybrids. And even though he continues to expand his game, Mark knows he has to keep his core skill of wrestling sharp.
“When I got home from Japan I got to train for seven days with my stablemates Wes Sims and Brandon Lee Hinkle and it was an eye opener. Not many people when it comes to straight wrestling can do what Hinkle can, especially now that he’s bigger than I am. I can’t shy away from continuing to work on my wrestling, my shot wasn’t as crisp/clean as it had been so I had to go back to the drawing board and focus my wrestling and get my shot back.” stated Coleman
So with a new vigor and increased skills Coleman heads over to Holland to face off against Voorn and as he puts it, mix a little of the old school with the nu skool and get back on the winning track.
“It’s the same old gameplan, take him down and pound him out,” said Mark. “I’m going to work more to pass the guard because sometimes when you get there you get comfortable and stay there. I can do more damage outside of it, so I’m going to pass it, get side control then 69 and blast him with knees. It’s hard to change an old dog, but I learned a lot from the Cro Cop fight, that gameplan failed so I need a new gameplan. I’m never going to stand and trade with anyone, but I’m looking to add some bombs to my arsenal and set up my takedowns better. I’m going to fake shots, get the clinch and take him down.”
Coleman concluded, “For three years fighting wasn’t my priority, but I’ve got my focus back 100% now. You have to eat, sleep, and train, that’s the life of a fighter and a champion. With fighters you’ve got to earn their respect and that’s what I’m going to do, I’m not going to be a cakewalk for anybody. Look for Kevin, Brandon and I to do real well this weekend. We’re going in there to smash the hell out of these guys and all have wins.”